The Liverpool FC Forum > Opinion

#SHANKLY100 - "There's no-one quite like granddad!"

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As part of our celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of Bill Shankly's birth, we present an exclusive RAWK interview with Karen Gill, granddaughter of Bill Shankly for those of you who don't know!

1) If you could pick just one memory of your grandfather as your happiest one, which and why?
As most of the first 16 years of my life were spent growing up very close to my granddad, obviously I have so many precious memories, but the best ones are of when we stayed overnight at Bellefield Avenue and he would tell me and my sister stories about Glenbuck, the mines and wonderful tales about his antics with his brothers and sisters when they were young. He’d tell us bout the men standing on the street corners telling tall tales, or about cycling for miles to get to the local cinema. These are things I will never forget.

2) How significant to you is this 100th anniversary?
It’s quite difficult to put into words exactly how important this is to me. The fact that 100 years after his birth and over 30 years since he passed away, people still honour his memory is just incredible testimony to the kind of man he was. If anything, I’d say that the “legend”, or whatever you choose to call it, just seems to be growing stronger. This anniversary is also extremely important to me, since one thing is certain; I won’t be around to celebrate the 200th anniversary!

3) How would you describe the legacy the Shankly years had on LFC specifically but on football as a whole?
He was literally the father of LFC. He brought his vision to the club. He recognised that there was great potential and he never gave up until he’d realised his dream and built that famous bastion of invincibility. Without that vision, that determination, that hard work, I really doubt that LFC would be the club it is today. Other things and other people have obviously been part of that whole process, but he was the spark. He laid the foundations and emphasised the ingredients for decent football: namely, team work, fair play, keep football simple but most importantly for me…respect the people who pay your wages. Don’t try to fool them.

4) What do you think made him such a great and admired man?
I think it’s because he was honest, hard-working, fair and passionate. People respect that. I think what inspired me and will always inspire me about him was his indomitable spirit. He was a fighter and he would never give up until he had achieved his goals, but he was fair and he always respected the opponent, whoever it was. Those are very admirable qualities!

5) In the era of Sky, multimillionaire players, transfer fees equivalent to some nations' trade deficits, rocketing ticket prices, etc, what do you think he would say about the modern game?
He’d be appalled by the obscene wages, he’d be absolutely devastated that the simple folk, who are the backbone of the “glorious game” are being priced out of the whole match experience. Such was my granddad’s enthusiasm and passion, he would have played football and managed his team for absolutely no money whatsoever. That’s how much football meant to him and that is the devotion that is missing today.

6) What's your favourite quotation from the big man?
There are just so many of them and even though they’ve been quoted so many times, I do love all bar one! I don’t like the “...some people believe football is a matter of life and death...” quotation - for obvious reasons! Maybe it would be appropriate at this point to use one of my favourite quotations from David Peace’s book. My granddad may not have said these exact words, but I feel this conveys the very essence of the man: “I want everyone to be loyal to each other. To the team and to the club. So everything we do will be for Liverpool Football Club. Not for ourselves. Not as individuals. But for the team….Because loyalty makes strength. And that strength will bring success. I promise you.” What a brilliant sentiment!

7) Is there anyone today in football good enough to fill his shoes? If so, who and why?
I think the ilk of manager like my granddad, like Matt Busby, Jock Stein and (even though we may be reluctant to admit it) Alex Ferguson evolved and developed out of their circumstances. They knew adversity and they had the vision and determination to make things happen and to turn things around. I’m not saying there isn’t anybody around like that today; we just haven’t seen them yet!

8 ) Do you think there can ever be another Shankly-esque character at the club, one who will command the same degree of respect and hero status? Have we already had that type of character?
My granddad was unique. The very word “unique” implies that there is no other like him. But Bob was also unique in a completely different way. There have been other strong, defining characters at the club like Kenny, who have contributed to its successes and given it that special character. I would say, that what makes my granddad stand apart is the fact that it started with him.

9) If you compare football in the 60s/70s to the modern era, what do YOU personally think absolutely needs to change?
I think football today, is a reflection of the society we live in. If society doesn’t change, then I’m afraid football won’t either. People have to get back to the things that matter: in other words, other people, the community, helping each other out. We have to get away from the obsession with money and consumerism. The players have to show respect to the people who pay large sums of money to watch their team and they must always give 100%. They have to get back to working as a team, not focusing on individuals. The supporters also have to help in that by not glorifying one player at the expense of the team.
10) Did your grandfather ever express any views on the women's game? What do you think he'd make of Liverpool Ladies FC today? My granddad was old-school. He didn’t imagine that women were very interested in football. However, I think that such was his passion for the game, that he would enjoy seeing passionate people playing/talking football, regardless of their sex. As for Liverpool Ladies FC, if they were top of their league, he’d love them!

11) Describe him, from a granddaughter's viewpoint!
I was going to say “he was just an ordinary granddad,” but the truth is, he wasn’t! Wherever we went we’d be accosted by fervent supporters. We could never truly be alone with him. Somebody was always calling or vice versa, people were always knocking at the door. But I felt safe around him and I know for sure that he was determined to look after us, because that’s what he always used to tell us.

12) What do you remember about him post-match? Did he ever talk about the game, the team, the tactics, the result, or was football left for the pitch, the changing room and the board room?
Football was never left for the pitch, the changing room or the board room! It was with him every single waking/sleeping moment of the day. Post-match behaviour would very much depend on the result. You would keep out of the way, or not, accordingly!

13) Can you remember when you realised who he was in the city rather than just your granddad? Was there a day when you can recall clocking, "Ah, THAT'S why everyone keeps saying hello to him!"?
I was nine years old when he retired. All of my young life (as I explained before, we spent a lot of time together) my granddad created a massive stir wherever he went. This never changed, even after his retirement. You get used to that kind of thing if that’s all you’ve ever seen. I “realised” just how special he was when I witnessed a great outpouring of grief from the people of Merseyside (Reds and Blues alike) at his funeral and memorial service. I also realised how great he was when, having travelled 1,500 miles to a small country in the Mediterranean, there were young LFC supporters who were inspired by his name and the legacy he’d left behind.
14) What do you miss most about him?
I miss his honesty and his sense of fairness. He might have been difficult/gruff/insensitive at times, but he was always fair. Unfortunately, that’s a rare quality these days; being fair sometimes means that you have to make some sacrifices and compromises or, do something that may not serve your own interests and unfortunately, that’s quite a rare quality nowadays. But, to end on a positive note, I actually still feel as if he’s here with us and that’s not a religious sentiment! If I may end with the words of the sports writer Hugh McIlvanney:“Few men ever had the capacity for warming and delighting their fellows without being physically in their company. For many of us he really will always be there.”

"Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to share my feelings about my granddad on this very special anniversary."
Karen Gill, August 2013.

The answer to question 9 is one which I think will resonate with a lot of us. And that part of Red or Dead is one which stood out for me too. We've never been about the stars, the individuals, the one over the team. It's about the team. And we've as much responsibility there as the players. The socialism I believe in...


--- Quote from: Zeb on August 28, 2013, 10:06:59 pm ---The answer to question 9 is one which I think will resonate with a lot of us. And that part of Red or Dead is one which stood out for me too. We've never been about the stars, the individuals, the one over the team. It's about the team. And we've as much responsibility there as the players. The socialism I believe in...

--- End quote ---

Yes! I read Jim's draft earlier and said the same thing, that answer from Karen brought a lump to my throat. The acorn doesn't fall far from the oak tree.

Cheers Jimbo. Sadly, I can't get the thought of the St Winifreds School Choir and that annoying kids voice, out of me head!

John C:
Great read, thanks to Jim & Karen for going to the trouble.

As a great man and as a granddan, he died far too early.


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